Gimmicks to draw fans detract from the actual game

Back in the day when baseball really was America?s pastime, you went to a game to see a game. Nowadays, the game almost is a sideshow to all of the marketing gimmicks and promotions used to draw fans to the ballpark.

Americans love free stuff and they love fireworks. In fact, there are more than 140 fireworks displays across Major League Baseball this season. The Royals have one after every home game played on Friday. The good news is it?s a pretty good show. The bad news is it?s usually better than the game.

Not easily deterred, the White Sox tried a seat-cushion promotion. My cousin attended the game in which a home run wasn?t a home run in old Comiskey Park. In that case the fans put the issue to a vote, casting their ballots in the form of seat cushions thrown like a Frisbee onto the field. The White Sox case won by almost unanimous vote, but the appellate court (umpires) reversed that ruling. My cousin kept his cushion.

Good thing it wasn?t bat or ball day.

Speaking of ball day, an incident 13 years ago resulted in a forfeit. It was Aug. 10, 1995, when umpires decided to forfeit a game to the Cardinals with one out in the Dodgers? ninth, after fans hurled their souvenir baseballs onto the field for the third time during the game.

The biggest uproar began when Raul Mondesi took a questionable strike two. After swinging and missing strike three, Mondesi argued and was ejected by Jim Quick, who moments earlier had booted Eric Karros for a belated objection to his eighth-inning strikeout. When manager Tommy Lasorda joined the fray and also was booted, a hail of baseballs came onto the field.

First-base ump Bob Davidson said Lasorda instigated the whole thing by waving his ?fat little arms out there.? Lasorda said the real crime was for the umps to try and put the blame on him.

Although I wasn?t there, I question the validity of the story because we?re assuming there were still some Dodger fans in the stands in the ninth inning. I?ve heard they always leave early.

According to, here are some of the worst MLB promotions for 2008:

n Retro Baseball T-Shirt (Phillies, April 2) ? Nothing says ?retro? like a shirt with 2008 on it.

n 2007 League Champion Collectible Wearable Ring (Rockies, April 7) ? This replica of Colorado?s National League title ring was given away free to the first 30,000 fans in attendance on Monday. Fans 30,001 and up who wanted a ring of equal quality were forced to shell out 25 cents at a supermarket gumball machine.

n Youth XL 1983 Jerseys (White Sox), July 20 ? So the team?s marketing department has research that says only fat kids are White Sox fans?

n Pink and White Rhinestone Cap (Royals, July 24) ? Is that pink cap not sexy enough, ladies? Then make yourself look a bit more tacky by adding some nice rhinestones.

n Rays Arm?y Hat (Rays, July 5) ? Nothing would give aid and comfort to the enemy more than our fighting men and women running around with Rays-logoed apparel. The United States military would suddenly look very beatable.

n Baseball Equipment Drive (Royals, April 25) ? Are the Royals really so financially strapped that they need their fans to donate bats, balls and gloves?

And some minor league promotions are rather unusual as well. Elaine Fulps, 60, won a $10,000 paid funeral at a Grand Prairie AirHogs game in Texas. The prize won?t expire until Fulps does, said Ron Alexander, sales manager at Oak Grove Memorial Gardens, which partnered with the team and Irving?s Chapel of Roses Funeral Home to sponsor the event.

Some finalists for the prize arrived dressed in black or looking like death. The finalists participated in a pallbearer?s race, a mummy wrap and a eulogy delivery.

More from Joe Kleinsasser
Slick compaints about basketball uniform dress rules
My agent I.M. Slick dropped by the other day and asked me...
Read More